Research

Five lakhs children have liver disease in Britain

Doctors say obesity levels are now so high that children are commonly suffering signs of disease more commonly associated with alcohol abuse, meaning many will go on to develop cirrhosis, with some requiring liver transplants. Government estimates say around 500,000 children below the age of 15 are suffering from “non alcoholic liver disease” which is caused by a build-up of fat within liver cells, which stops the organ functioning properly. The condition increases the risks of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes, and can lead to cirrhosis – scarring of the liver – which is often not detected until it is too late. Britain’s most senior liver expert said the country was now facing a timebomb, with thousands of lives already at risk, and the numbers of children suffering from the disease projected to “rocket” further in line with rising obesity levels. Prof Martin Lombard, the Department of Health’s national clinical director for liver disease warned that the disease was rarely detected until it had caused damage. Liver disease is a silent killer, which is putting the lives of thousands of our children at risk. We do not want to see the next generation dying young from a condition that can be prevented. We know that with childhood obesity on the rise we can expect more children to be at risk of fatty liver disease in the near future. Government figures show 30 per cent of children aged between 2 and 15 are now overweight or obese – a figure which is projected to double by 2050. Prof Lombard said he was concerned that children suffering from fatty liver disease were at particular risk if they started experimenting with alcohol in teenage years. He said even modest amounts of alcohol could worsen the condition.

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